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August 27th, 2015

Preventable Software Implementation Project Pitfalls

In any software project, implementation is the most crucial phase that may make or break the project. Your software may be a perfect fit for your organization, but if it isn’t implemented properly, you won’t realize its benefits or you may incur unnecessary overhead costs that offset any potential gains.

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From the implementer’s standpoint, a smooth implementation is critical, as their reputation is on the line. The goal is to provide an on-budget and on-time implementation project. Projects that go overtime can tie up resources that would have been allocated to another project instead, resulting in delays and lost revenue.

From the client’s perspective, a smooth implementation directly impacts the bottom line. Delays in the project mean additional costs and man-hours, which increases the time required to recuperate the initial investment back. This then hampers support and buy-in from other parties involved with the project. Low user adoption or user resistance, is potentially catastrophic to business operation and profitability.

As workforce management software developers, we’ve implemented numerous projects in over 20 years of operation. In this post, we’ve compiled some tips that we’ve learned over the years to facilitate a smooth implementation. We’ve organized the tips by issues that can occur during implementation and suggested solutions to work around them.

Project “super user” has conflicting priorities that prevent full-time dedication to the project

A “super user” is the individual within your organization who will have the most knowledge about the system, including how it works and how to operate it. They generally have the most administrative privileges as well.

To avoid this situation, be proactive and identify what other tasks and projects will require the super user’s attention and determine if any of them can be handed off or reprioritized. In some circumstances, it may even make sense to select someone else to be the super user.

If you find that during the project, conflicting priorities arise and the super user cannot work full-time on the project, timelines will need to be adjusted to accommodate tasks involving the super user, which could possibly be all the tasks.

Project personnel changes in the middle of the project

shutterstock_143837407 resized 250Personnel changes in the middle of a project is quite common, as people take leave or switch jobs, project responsibility changes hands, or new staff join the project midway through. When core project personnel are replaced, it can cause big delays to the project timeline. By preparing for these disruptions in advance, you can avoid or mitigate the situation where retraining and rescheduling of the project plan is required.

To prepare for this situation in advance, try to leave some buffer room in the timeline as well as know in advanced when, and for how long, project personnel plan to be absent. However in addition to that, the best thing to do is to have a designated backup individual.

Project has minimal budget or time allocated to it

When your organization doesn’t have the resources to allocate to an intensive software implementation project but you still need to implement, you have to be creative with your budget and selective with your software vendor.

Organizations such as LOKI Systems can provide unique implementation solutions to better fit organizations with varying requirements and budgetary constraints. An out-of-the-box solution, such as our QuickStart implementation method for Advanced Payroll AX, reduces the timeline for implementation by weeks or months, saving you thousands of dollars. QuickStart is a preconfigured basic database and standardized implementation method ideal for simple implementations. However, more complicated requirements can be configured on top of the base kit to fit the needs of complicated payroll environments.

Access to technical resources during the project is limited or unreliable

The inability to access resources can add costly delays to the project timeline. If you know that you need to share technical resources with other projects or departments, make sure to factor that in to the project timeline. It also helps to establish with the other teams which project is top priority. If it turns out that your project is not the top priority, you may need to lengthen the time for tasks that involve those shared resources or to seek alternative options.

Scope changes after the project has started

Project scope changes are every project manager’s nightmare. While scope changes after the project has started are never ideal, they do happen, so it’s best to lay out a process on how to handle them early on. Without a clear plan, new features can be slowly added to the project until it has snowballed into something too big to be completed within the original budget and time constraints.

When it comes to scope changes, clear communication is key. Asking the right questions during the requirements gathering phase can mitigate much of the unknowns later in the project. Detecting a scope change early reduces the impact of the change as opposed to attempting to add a feature in the latter phases of the project, where the time costs can be debilitating. When dealing with change requests, all parties should keep in mind that changes may require additional project days. For every change, determine how important it is and how much you are willing to spend to get it.

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Work is not completed on time

Productivity is a very basic requirement for any organization. A software implementation project is just as susceptible to productivity issues. If project milestones are not being met, first try to identify the reasons why the work is late. Is the wrong person doing the work? Is there too much work for the resources allocated?

When addressing productivity issues, determine the possibility of the same issue occurring again and how to prevent it. If work is not being completed on time because of unrealistic timelines, resource allocation or bottlenecks in the workflow, similar problems can keep appearing throughout the project until the underlying issue is addressed.

To ensure work is completed on time and to detect early on if a task won’t be completed on time, have weekly reports with your implementer and your team. By having scheduled meetings to discuss what has been accomplished that week and what is still outstanding, it ensures constant communication, which is vital to the success of the project. Also, the earlier you know when something will become an issue, the sooner you can plan a solution to keep the project on track and budget. While you cannot account for every issue that may occur, you can give yourself enough time to react accordingly to the unexpected.

 

Overall, open and transparent communication is the biggest factor in avoiding most project pitfalls. When selecting your software partner, clear communication policies are every bit as important as implementation experience. Clear communication allows you to address potential issues directly, keeping the project on track, which is the ideal outcome for both the implementer and you.

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